Childlike Faith – Living and Loving Your Life With God's Perspective

Category - family

When Your Goals Matter More Than Your Family

work-life-balance-family

“Society treats kids and senior citizens the same,” Rachel remarked to me the other day, and it got me thinking a lot about the truth of that statement on many levels. In the main, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of time, respect, and wholehearted care given to those populations by the mass of individuals who find themselves chronologically between them, even if they are related to them.

Everywhere I look this is evident. And this is why many kids are raised in day care and after school centers, and why many grandpas and grandmas spend the winter of their lives in nursing homes and senior centers.

I am concerned that we will have a lot of regret at the end of our lives when we take a hard look at the choices we made, and the things we neglected.

It has been said that that which is most important to us can be identified by the things on which we spend the most time. From what I can tell, it’s often not family. It’s our selfish desires – our lives, our goals, our hobbies, our comforts, our distractions. And while it’s easy to excuse and rationalize away when we are caught up in work pressures, health issues, household responsibilities, and so much stress and anxiety, I am concerned that we will have a lot of regret at the end of our lives when we take a hard look at the choices we made, and the things we neglected.

I am definitely guilty of this. I don’t check in with my parents as often as I should, and I point to my never-ending list of responsibilities as the reason why. What about you – do you do the same?

I also get annoyed sometimes (although I try to hide it, often unsuccessfully) when my newborn keeps fussing and won’t let me get back to my work or chores or my phone without interruption. Can you relate? Does your kid annoy you sometimes for simply having needs at inconvenient times? What about your significant other?

I do love my parents.

And I do love my kid.

And I do love my wife.

They each want and deserve meaningful love and undivided attention. Heck, we all do. But I struggle to give it to them unless it’s done on my time and my schedule. Unless I am really in the mood.

And even though I would never ignore them or fail to come through for them, the attitude with which I sometimes approach the time and effort I am asked to give them betrays a major heart issue. And specifically, I think it points out that in my mind, my life is way more important than theirs.

I was mentioning to Rachel that from the age of about 20 to perhaps 60, adults (including me) have an aggrandized sense of self-importance. We get so wrapped up in building a successful career, making a name for ourselves, creating a nest egg, having a family, and striving for an idyllic and enviable life that we end up elbowing out anything that slows us down or otherwise seems to undermine our efforts. As if what we are doing with our life matters more than anything else (and what they are doing).

We get so wrapped up in striving for an idyllic and enviable life that we end up elbowing out anything that slows us down or otherwise seems to undermine our efforts.

But the reality is that no one is going to really remember 99.9% of us in 100 years. Even though I truly believe my work is important, and that I’m actually saving lives through my research, training, and service activities, no one is going to remember me. Seriously. Not in 100 years. Not in 2117 or 2118 or 2119 or 2120. Yes, I’ll have made a difference in the lives of others, and that difference absolutely does matter, but I’m not going to be in a US History book, and you probably aren’t either.

No offense.

And so with that in mind, it seems incredibly arrogant and pretentious to keep excusing that fact that I don’t give my absolute best to my parents or my kids or my significant other because my work and life goals are too important. They aren’t, compared to them. And it’s likely yours aren’t either. I don’t know you, but the odds are that you are probably fooling yourself.

I have always wanted to be able to say that regardless of my professional successes or failures, I gave my family the best of me.

The thing is though, I understand the struggle. I do. It’s often easier to give our best to our jobs and obligations instead of our families. That’s true in my life, at least. Why? I think it’s because I have more control over work stuff, and less control over family stuff because their hearts and feelings are involved, and they want my actions and words toward them to involve my heart and feelings. And sometimes that is exhausting, and that means I’m not always in the mood to give them my best. 

In addition, we often don’t see immediate, tangible rewards from pouring into our family, like we do in our work each day and each week.  Familiarity without constant and visible rewards seems to breed contempt, I guess. It’s just tough. But I have always wanted to be able to say that regardless of my professional successes or failures, I gave my family the best of me.  I’m trying to keep that goal first and foremost above all other goals, and let my moment-by-moment decisions each day be guided accordingly.  And I’m trying to deflate my aggrandized sense of self-importance by remembering that my loved ones matter so much more than the things I’ve spent my life pursuing.

When You’re Waiting for Your Miracle

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On Tuesday , we were due to have our first baby. People say that with your first child, it’ll probably come late and so don’t get your hopes up for an early or even on-time delivery.  But you all know me – I definitely expected ours to not make us wait. She’s been so active every single day for a couple of months now, and it made me believe she was hankering to come on out and start exploring the world.

Approaching that day, I was definitely getting antsy. I was like, come on Baby, we want to meet you! We want to hold you! We want to squeeze you! But apparently Rachel’s womb is incredibly hospitable, and there have been no real signs that the process of labor is beginning.  And now, it’s five days later. And part of me is thinking that this is never going to happen.

But it will.  I mean, it has to.  Baby has to come out.  

Rachel and I are in between the promise and the fulfillment.  But it’s like we’re stuck, or paralyzed, or just caught in suspension. And it’s a feeling I (and probably you) know all too well from other pivotal experiences. Hoping for a girl or a boy to show interest in you. Longing for graduation when you’re barely a sophomore. Desperate to be an adult so you can do things your way. Waiting for retirement and the easy life.

Since Tuesday, I don’t even expect it to happen. In fact, I try not to even think about it. What’s the use?  I don’t want to be let down. When it happens, it happens, and until then we’re supposed to just live our life.

But I do have moments where I’m like, how are we supposed to just live our life? I mean, this is such a humongous deal! Like, one of the biggest things ever!

But I do have moments where I’m like, how are we supposed to just live our life? I mean, this is such a humongous deal! Like, one of the biggest things ever!

You can imagine (but you probably shouldn’t) that we’ve tried pretty much all of the suggestions that people have given us about naturally inducing labor.  Spicy foods.  Massages.  Lots of walking.  Sex.  Swimming.  Bouncing on a Pilates ball.  Eating pineapple.  Doing squats.  It’s not working.  Nothing is working.

And that’s familiar too.  Believing that something is going to happen, but seeing that God is taking His sweet time, and trying to force the issue. Haven’t we all been there and done that? I can’t just chill and go focus on something else.  I need to try to manipulate the situation so things happen on my own timeline.

<sigh>

All of this reminds me of one of the constant themes of my life: nothing happens for weeks and months and years and then BAM! God shows up. 

This happened with my schooling.  With my career.  With publishing articles.  With love.  Long seasons of waiting, and then suddenly, surprisingly, something amazing happened.  But this is what God does, it seems.  I have written about this verse before, but Isaiah 47:3 makes this clear: “I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.”

God knows what’s up even in the middle of the silence, the stillness, the why-is-nothing-happening moments. He has a plan, and it’s for our good. Actually, it’s for our best.  It’s not like He’s sitting on His Hands.  The truth is just the opposite: He’s been at work all along – laying the groundwork, orchestrating the details, and fine-tuning the outcome.  Because we can’t see any of that, we start to believe that no tangible progress is being made. And then get frustrated.  And impatient. And annoyed.  And sad.

God knows what’s up even in the middle of the silence, the stillness, the why-is-nothing-happening moments. He has a plan, and it’s for our good.

And then we try to take matters into our own hands, which doesn’t work out (or at least doesn’t work out as well as we thought it would). That’s fitting, because we should have just waited on Him.

This last month has been tough, tougher than I thought it would be.  And we still haven’t even experienced what labor will be like.  But as for waiting for Baby to make a move, I’m done thinking about it.  Obviously, I am ready and stoked for it to happen, but I am not going to struggle with figuring God’s timeline, and I’m definitely done trying to speed up the process. 

Another lesson in letting go.  You’d think I’d have mastered the skill by now, given how many times He’s tried to teach me.  But no, not yet.  He is gracious and patient with me, and I am constantly learning to be gracious and patient with Him.  There is a reason why Baby hasn’t come yet, and I don’t get to know. 

I get to trust.

And I get to practice having childlike faith in a perfectly loving God. 

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What I’ve Learned in Two Years of Marriage

Somehow, some way, a bit over twenty-four months have passed while I’ve been doing this marriage thing. What the pez!? You’ll recall I shared some of the lessons learned after one year of being hitched, and I thought it would be important to reflect again now that we’ve hit another milestone. I’m not sure how the first couple years are supposed to be, or tend to be. Are we still in the “honeymoon stage”? Are we past it? Are we unique in any way? Are we like every other young married couple at this stage? I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.

Here’s what I do know. We’re doing great. I can say that without even the slightest qualification. And I’m so thankful for it and don’t take it for granted. My love for her is definitely growing stronger, not plateauing or weakening in any way. I shared in a letter I wrote to her before I went to Ireland this summer that I catch myself feeling increasingly vulnerable in terms of my love for her. Like, I’m losing control, like she has this power over me that makes me feel all liquefied inside. Not always, but definitely when I’m missing her a ton, or thinking about her in the midst of exhaustion or loneliness or work struggles.

At those times, if I were to let the emotions completely overcome me, I feel I would turn into a blubbery mess. Because in that moment, I want her, I need her, I love her so painfully much. I don’t allow my mind or feelings to go there, but that’s what marriage and doing life with her has done to me 🙂

But you’re not here to read about that. Let’s talk about what I have learned. Allow me to structure this in terms of two things I say to myself on a consistent basis. That will most profoundly illustrate how my thinking and my living have been affected.

“It doesn’t really matter.”

I say this a lot in my head. Early on, a handful of things bugged me. In my mind, she loads the dishwasher a little inefficiently. Almost every day, the floor and counter would have one or two small sticky spots from her cooking or making tea or something (I really hate stickiness. Really.)   She takes a while to do something that I would have already knocked out. She’s a couple minutes late getting ready when we’re off to be somewhere on time. Stuff like that.

But in the grand scheme of things, I have learned that it’s not a big deal.

And I believe she is doing her best and is well aware of what might annoy me, and I need to leave it at that.

She’s a separate person with a separate way of doing things, and it’s totally fine. It’s not fair for me to expect her to do everything in the exact same way as I would, at the exact same speed. Preserving harmony in the marriage takes precedent. “Us” is always more important than “me.” And seriously, I’m sure she bites her tongue every day when it comes to my idiosyncrasies and annoying habits. I wouldn’t want to do life with me. I’m so thankful she does. Being so intimately acquainted with my faults, it’s actually kind of miraculous.

Remember that the other person is doing their best. They are not trying to annoy you or irritate you in the least bit.

For those in long-term relationships or marriages, try to tell yourself often that “it doesn’t really matter.” There are very few hills you should die on. Yes, have convictions about the important things – the things that reflect integrity and industriousness and wisdom and kindness and faith – but try to let go about the comparatively trivial things. Remember that the other person is doing their best. They are not trying to annoy you or irritate you in the least bit. They are trying each day to be all you need them to be. And you should be thankful for all of the ways they are patient and gracious and ever-loving with you.

“Only one thing is necessary.”

I say this to myself a lot too. And it helps me to be a better person, which in turn helps me to be a better husband. It’s from Luke 10:42, when sisters Mary and Martha are hosting Jesus. Martha is running around the house trying to manage life and responsibilities and appearances and demands. Mary is just hanging out with the Lord, getting to know Him and His heart, and finding her worth and value in Him. And when Martha complains about Mary not helping her with all she has going on, Jesus lovingly admonishes Martha and praises Mary’s singular devotion and choice with the words, “Only one thing is necessary.”

It’s true. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in trying to stay on top of life. And pursuing that goal has the side-effect of pushing out my pursuit of God and my pursuit of Rachel. I start to think that sweeping the floor, or writing another paper, or preparing for tax season, or organizing my closet is more important right now than them. But they aren’t. Ever. Those tasks always come in second to the way I love my Lord and the way I love my wife. I’m not saying you have to let those things go; rather, you should make sure that your good intentions to get things done doesn’t undermine the best possible relationship you could ever have.

It’s so easy for me to get caught up in trying to stay on top of life. And pursuing that goal has the side-effect of pushing out my pursuit of God and my pursuit of Rachel.

I find this extremely tough. I hate mistakes and I hate problems because they get in the way of me living how I want each day (I do realize this is dysfunctional and selfish and prideful and controlling). And so I do all I can to avoid them by laboring in ways that prevent their possible occurrence. I’m always thinking ahead. I spray for bugs just in case we have a random infestation. I trim palm trees to keep them from possibly knocking down a gutter. I plan for old age. I maintain proper tire pressure in our vehicles. I stay on top of mail and bills and filing paperwork. There is always something else to do. Always. I’m never caught up the way I want to be. Ever.

But all of this takes so much time, time that I could be – and should be – giving to God and my wife. Obviously, I’m supposed to be a good steward, and take care of the domain over which He’s give me ownership. But I clearly need to trust Him more to hold everything together and not let the bottom fall out (which is fundamentally what I am afraid of). I’m trying. It’s going to be impossible for me to keep this up when we have children. I just have to trust more. And do less. And give myself to my most important relationships above all else.

It’s going to be impossible for me to keep this up when we have children. I just have to trust more. And do less. And give myself to my most important relationships above all else.

That’s it. Pretty simple, actually. There are so many lists in books and online with top tips for relationships and dating and marriages, but all of that can be subsumed under two succinct phrases for me: “it doesn’t really matter” and “only one thing is necessary.” Or, as Stephen Covey has said, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” I feel like when I’ve concentrated my energies on living out these two overarching statements, everything else falls into place. Not perfectly (because we are broken people in a broken world), but pretty dang well – and marked by a good measure of peace, harmony, and even joy. That is all I want as Rachel and I enjoy each other’s love, laughter, and companionship, and team up to accomplish epic things for His people, purposes, and renown.

When you’re having a baby, and you’re freaking out

crying girl
My life is about to be turned upside down, because we’re about to have a baby. This is a wonderful, incredible thing, and I don’t take it for granted. It’s actually a complete miracle to have a child, and I am beyond grateful that it happened. And I am so very excited because I’ve always wanted to be a dad, and have always been great with kids. I’ve always done (and enjoyed) a lot of babysitting for families I know, and have worked with elementary schoolers at church almost every week for so many years. Plus, those of you who know me know that I am a big kid at heart.

I feel like this new role is going to fit me like a glove, and everyone seems to be in agreement based on their observations of my interactions with children and teens. I can picture myself as Phil from Modern Family, or Chip from Fixer Upper, having an absolute blast with my kiddos, being their best friend and hero, and driving my wife crazy in the most adorable and memorable ways (she’ll roll her eyes at us and our exploits, but she’ll fall more deeply in love with me at the same time!)

All of this said, I am a bit nervous about a couple of things. I know me better than anyone else, and I slowly shake my head in concern sometimes at some of my personal idiosyncrasies – especially when I consider them in the light of all that a baby will bring into my world. I actually like these things about me, but I fear they are incompatible with this new season of my life. Because it will no longer my world – it will be my baby’s world.

First, I like things clean.

boy cleaning

I really do. When I think about cleanliness, I close my eyes, breathe in the sweet air around me, smile contentedly, and let out a long, peaceful exhale. Cleanliness is a freshly washed white t-shirt sun drying on a clothesline in the middle of a breezy meadow. It’s soothing. It’s comforting. It’s downright lovely. My home is like this. While sometimes I have stuff laying around that I need to put away, you honestly could eat off any surface in my home pretty much at any time. Carpets, tile, countertops, tables, desks in my house – they are all clean. I sweep a lot, mop a lot, vacuum a lot (well, Rachel does, thank you love!), and go through antibacterial surface wipes like I’m a hypochondriac (thank you Amazon!) (I am not a hypochondriac). I just don’t like messes. In particular, I don’t like stickiness.

The problem is that babies are sticky. And they are going to make everything else sticky. My table and chairs and floors and bed and everything within reach is going to now be sticky. And after I wipe them down, they will get sticky again – probably within minutes. I am starting to tense up just picturing this. Whoa, I just felt a definite physiological reaction. I clearly have issues. Okay, let’s move on, quickly.

crying girl

Second, I like things quiet.

Actually, I love quiet. Oh, I love it so much. Just thinking about quietness right now makes me wish it was tangible so I could give it a big ol’ hug. There is nothing better. It allows me to think through my problems and emotions, constantly talk with and listen to God (my best friend), and come up with neat new ideas (and remember things I want to remember). I seriously don’t know how people do life well with so much noise and distraction and stimuli around them. Quietness is such a beautiful thing.

quiet girl

The problem is that babies are not quiet. Often they are the opposite of quiet. That is just reality.

And so it feels like I am losing something major in my life. Cleanliness and quietness. But yes, I know I am gaining something so much more major. I mourned the loss of solitude when I married the love of my life, but I got used to having someone else around. And now I miss Rachel tons when we are apart and I like doing life with her. Actually, I love doing life with her. I would gladly trade solitude to be with her.

But to be honest, that was kind of a leap of faith for me. I didn’t know for sure how I would be able to handle it. I just believed and trusted that God brought us together for His eternal purposes and our collective joy, and would take care of the details. And He totally did, and my struggle was very short.

I know I am called to be a father, and that He is actively involved in preparing me for this. I know He’s working on my heart and thought processes even as I write this, helping me to prepare, and helping me to get over myself. And though I am currently mourning the forthcoming loss of cleanliness and quietness in my world, I have to believe that He is going to help me overcome any struggles I face. And just like with marriage, parenthood is going to be so great, and so very worth anything I think I am losing or giving up.

I hope this doesn’t sound ridiculous and selfish to you. I do realize that the problem isn’t that babies are not clean and not quiet. They are babies, and that’s how babies are. The problem is me. But I need grace, from myself and from others. You may think this is small potatoes and that I am whining about the stupidest of things, but perhaps you also have small potatoes in your life that are magnified because of your personality and habits. Maybe you also make molehills into mountains, in at least some area of your life. Maybe we all do.

We’re about to have a baby. God’s got me, and I’ve got this, and all will be well. He doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips the called.

This is me, being equipped. 

Eight months in, and one month to go.

Image sources:

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How a Superhero Cape Helps Me Be Awesome

childlike cape faith
Rachel made me a cape!  A full-sized, heavy, satiny, superhero cape!  I am totally shocked and bowled over by how freaking awesome it is!  This is the best gift I have ever received in my entire life!

I’ve honestly always wanted a cape, ever since I saw the original Superman with Christopher Reeve.  We both had black hair, and wore glasses, and were a bit nerdy.  Clark Kent obviously had a unique gift and calling on his life, and in my innocence I wondered if maybe I did too.  I remember using a safety pin to hold together the short end corners of the biggest bath towel I could find to wear around my neck.  And then I would run through the house with my cape fluttering behind me, and jump off couches and beds and chairs and anything else I could find.  In my mind, being a superhero involved a lot of jumping, perhaps as practice to leap tall buildings in a single bound.   

My cape made me feel strong, powerful, courageous, and noble.  It made me feel like I was more than meets the eye, that I had a secret and special quality about me that no one else had.

My cape made me feel strong, powerful, courageous, and noble.  It made me feel like I was more than meets the eye, that I had a secret and special quality about me that no one else had.  And that it would help me to be the best version of myself, to battle evil and save lives and just naturally do great and awesome things to make the lives of others better and safer and happier.  I think everyone wants this, and not just while growing up.  We want to have something extraordinary about us to share, something that we can unveil to the world to fulfill a grand purpose.

I haven’t worn a towel like a cape since before adolescence.  But I have always delighted in what it signifies.  And since I’ve known Rachel, I’ve joked offhandedly about how I would love a cape because it represents what I am all about.  Childlike faith.  Truth and justice for all.  Awe and wonder.  Intrepid valor.  Romance.  Living from one’s heart above all else, for the greater good. 

childlike faith castle

She surprised me with it for our second wedding anniversary when she came to visit me in Ireland this summer.  I got out of the shower, and there it was laying on the bed for me.  I was completely dumbfounded and speechless when I first saw it, and didn’t know what it was, but then it hit me. 

I was like, “You got me a cape?  You got me a cape?!!  You got me a CAPE!!!!” And she was like, “I made you a cape!”  Even remembering the moment as I write this out makes me marvel anew at her act of love towards me. 

You have to see it in person.  I’ll even let you try it on if you want.  I didn’t want a cape with the Superman logo, something you could buy in a costume shop.  I wanted my very own, something that no one else had.  And no one else has this cape in the entire world!  I love that it’s red, with a gold stallion as the insignia (its meaning is personal).  I love that the inside of it is black.  I love that it has weight and class to it, as the material is just exquisite and really makes me think that all of the best capes out there – Superman’s, Batman’s, Dracula’s – were made just like this one.  And when I wear it, I don’t feel derpy or ridiculous.  Instead, I feel joy – simply and purely.

I want to remain curious, and wide-eyed, and risk-taking – and expect that things will work out in the end.  I want to feel mysterious, and dashing, and capable of tremendous feats.

While we were vacationing around Ireland, my favorite thing to do was to find the ruins of a castle, put on my cape, and go climbing around on it.  You might think that it took me back to being a kid again, but in my mind it was a wonderful reminder that I haven’t stopped being a kid – at least in the most desirable ways.  I want to remain curious, and wide-eyed, and risk-taking – and expect that things will work out in the end.  I want to feel mysterious, and dashing, and capable of tremendous feats.  This is how I always want to see myself, how always I want to be.

As I think about it, my cape is important to me for two major reasons. 

First, it represents a rite of passage.  In adolescence, we have bar and bat mitzvahs in the Jewish tradition, confirmation in the Catholic faith, Quinceanera in Spanish cultures, Seijin Shiki in Japanese customs.  Many times, some symbol or token is given to formally mark the transition from child to adult, and their calling forth into greater responsibility, maturity, and strength.  I’ve heard of examples where the token was a replica broad sword from Lord of the Rings, or a necklace of great significance and meaning. 

superhero cape faith

It may seem like an unnecessary formality, but it is a very special thing to commemorate a major life change in a tangible way that conveys encouragement, support, and nobility.  It also then serves as a clear, unquestionable marker and signpost to remind a person from where he has come, and where he is going.  I find that individuals need to know when a transition has happened, or else they flounder and flail while seemingly suspended between two stages. And they never really make the “jump” – leaving the past in the past and fully embracing the present and future. 

My cape encourages me to stiff-arm complacency, press through fear, and fight the good fight just like Superman or Batman or any other caped crusader would.

I’m about to be a father for the first time.  This is a humongous deal.  My cape serves as a token of remembrance that spurs me on to be a hero to my forthcoming child, and to my wife.  It also reminds me to view the world as my playground, where anything can happen and everything is possible (I still believe that).  It encourages me to stiff-arm complacency, press through fear, and fight the good fight just like Superman or Batman or any other caped crusader would.  It helps me to rise up, and be the best I can be.

Second, in 2 Kings there is a great story of when the older prophet Elijah passes on his mantle (or robe, or cloak) to his younger sidekick Elisha.  A mantle is very similar to a cape, and represented a covering from God that conferred authority and responsibility to one chosen to do great things.  When I see my cape – and honestly even when I think about it – it serves a tremendous purpose.  I am reminded that He has set me apart, to be a light in dark places, to know the words that sustain the weary, to offer hope, to reflect how to live life to the fullest, and most importantly to point others to His son Jesus through all that I do. 

childlike faith ireland

There’s so much in this world that destroys our innocence, and that breaks our will and even our heart.  There’s so much that pushes us in the direction of bitterness, cynicism, passivity, and resignation. We find ourselves in a downright war for emotional health and stability as adults just trying to make it, and the battles we must fight every day render us weary. 

I think we’d all face these struggles with more fortitude and hope if we could approach them with the mindset we had before our childhood was rocked. Or stolen. And often, we need something to get us there, to jolt us out of our self-defeating thoughts and attitudes.

My cape does that. It serves as the reminder I need to regain the perspective I always want to have in life. It helps me to remember my identity, my calling, and all that I am meant for – and meant to be.

What My Pregnant Wife Needs From Me

pregnant wife needs
My wife Rachel is six months pregnant with our first child, and we’d both tell you that we’re enjoying this uniquely special time in our lives.  Part of me wishes Baby were here already so I could play with it.  It’s like, come on already, I want to hold you and cuddle you and love you to pieces!  The other part of me understands we need this to stretch out to the right number of weeks so Baby is as healthy as possible.  Rachel helps me keep things in perspective, and has a very mature and thoughtful outlook on this entire process.  This is probably because she’s spent a lot of time learning and researching about pregnancy and birth and newborns and motherhood over the last year, and I have spent a lot of time watching sports. 

Pregnancy hasn’t been a breeze.  I guess it’s probably not a breeze for anyone, ever.  Rachel had a really rough first fifteen weeks marked by a whole lot of nausea and vomiting, and it made me feel so helpless, and – yes – partly to blame.  When I could hear her in the bathroom hunched over the toilet sobbing and throwing up and coughing and spitting, I was like “I did this to her, this is my fault!”  But I understood that sometimes morning sickness happens, and she understood it too, and we got through it.  She was seriously such a champ in riding out the first trimester with such a good attitude.  I tried to love her well then, and seeing her “take one for the team” has inspired me to redouble my efforts to keep doing so.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Rachel needs to feel emotionally safe.  Even more emotionally safe than ever before.  What she is going through is – to put it bluntly – traumatic.  It is.  You have something growing inside of you. You’re always thinking about it.  And if you stop for a moment to get back to doing life, it reminds you by taking from you – oxygen, food, and all kinds of energy and thought.   Or by kicking you.  All of this tires you out, runs you down, and leaves you very feeling very vulnerable.  Plus, if it’s your first baby, all of these feelings are so new and you get freaked out really easily.  The insides of your body are stretching and straining, hormones and chemicals are rising and falling and basically going haywire, and you have random weird pains all over your abdomen and nether regions.  It’s super scary. Mommy has no clear idea what all is going on inside of her, and just wants Baby to be okay.  I want that too as Daddy, but I’m not experiencing all of the super heavy physical and emotional stuff that Mommy is. 

It’s super scary. Mommy has no clear idea what all is going on inside of her, and just wants Baby to be okay.

And so I have to be extra thoughtful and sensitive in what I say, and how I say it.  I don’t want to pile on to her emotional load in any way, but instead just want to help her offload some of it onto my shoulders by being supportive, understanding, super patient, and simply a great listener and friend to her.  I need to avoid coming across as judgmental or questioning her decisions or choices (Note to self: don’t say stuff like “Chinese takeout and froyo AGAIN tonight?”). I need to reassure her in subtle and obvious ways that she’s physically beautiful and altogether lovely, that I’m always going to be here through thick and thin (you know what I mean), and that I’m strong enough to love her and keep pursuing her heart through all of these changes. 

In this environment, she can rest against the stability I provide.  She can let her guard down and just be herself without having to fake it.  And she can keep her own heart soft without having to harden it simply to get through.  Honestly, don’t we all want to live and love and grow in an environment like this? It’s freeing.

It’s nurturing. 
It’s without condition. 
It’s how family should always, always be.

2) Rachel needs practical help with her responsibilities and tasks, and I need to be available and eager to pitch in.  Before pregnancy, we sort of both knew our roles in terms of who took care of what.  Of course, we’d always offer the other a hand, but I’d say that we had a good system in place to avoid unnecessary stress and stay on top of life (as much as is humanly possible).  Since pregnancy, I just have to do a lot more.  Rachel would love to contribute in exactly the same ways as she did before, but on some days she physically and emotionally cannot.  She just can’t. 

I need to not think to myself, “Dangit, I’m totally exhausted too, and now I have to do all of these other things as well?!??!”

I need to not think to myself, “Dangit, I’m totally exhausted too, and now I have to do all of these other things as well?!??!” or “What the pez, she’s been lying on the couch all afternoon and we have so much to knock out!” or “Holy crap man, we just stopped for a bathroom eight minutes ago and she needs me to stop again!” I need to think to myself, “Wake up, you shortsighted goober. Remember the promises you made at the altar.  Your wife is contributing in gigantic ways every minute, every hour, every day by CARRYING YOUR CHILD IN HER WOMB.”

Rachel is shouldering pretty much everything in this pregnancy.  I did very little to start the proverbial ball rolling, and I’m doing pretty much nothing to feed or take care of Baby over these nine months.  I haven’t read any books on parenting yet, nor have I gone to any newborn-related classes.  I haven’t even built a crib.  I will do those things, but I haven’t yet.  My contribution so far has been like 1%. 

When we were dating, I didn’t love her best by focusing on her needs.  I loved her best by catching glimpses of her wants and surprising her with them.  The things that made her eyes light up, or made her burst out into laughter, or made her heart melt.

And so I need to keep my eyes open for ways I can serve her.  And not just when she asks, but sometimes before she asks.  And not just tackling things so her needs are met, but also working to remember her wants.  When we were dating, I didn’t love her best by focusing on her needs.  I loved her best by catching glimpses of her wants and surprising her with them.  The things that made her eyes light up, or made her burst out into laughter, or made her heart melt.  That stuff matters so much, and conveys love more powerfully and reassuringly than anything else because it reminds her that she isn’t an obligation or a responsibility, but a joyous treasure.  Now even more than before, I should meet not just her needs, but also her wants. 

This takes hard work. And time. And a lot of intentional thoughtfulness.  And margin. If I’m doing life at 100% (or 110% – which is my norm) I am going to be irritable and annoyed when she needs me.  And this has happened (although I hope she hasn’t noticed it because I try to push it down and always do the noble thing). I need to allocate space – and purposefully make more space – in my life to have room to be thoroughly patient and loving at all times. 

If I’m doing life at 100% (or 110% – which is my norm) I am going to be irritable and annoyed when she needs me.  And this has happened.

I’m thinking I need to do this so much more over the last three months of pregnancy. Because it’s going to get harder as she gets more uncomfortable in her own skin. I need to be ready. I’m spending way less time on Twitter and Instagram, even for work purposes.  I’m following my favorite sports team less (which is a singular joy to me, like food or conversation or Netflix is to others).  But these are small potatoes. These matter so little, comparatively speaking, to what lies before Rachel and me. These, and other matters, are going to fade in importance as Baby gets ready to burst onto the scene.

I’m ready to rise up and be the husband I’m called to be. These aren’t just words. I know I have a strength deep down given to me from God to do this.  I haven’t done it perfectly, and I know I will fall a bit short as these months elongate in front of us before we can celebrate Baby’s birth. But I’m determined to do my best.  I mean, what is more important in life than this?  When I consider all of the other things out there that vie for my attention and affection, nothing should even come close to the priority of my marriage – and the miracle of the blessing being formed and finished inside my bride.

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